The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects over 203,000 registered nurse (RN) job openings each year from 2021 to 2031, necessitating more than two million new and replacement nurses over the course of a single decade. To meet this projected need, nursing schools must increase enrollment substantially. As it stands now, however, 2022 saw the first decrease in entry-level baccalaureate nursing program enrollment in two decades, according to the American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN).
Nearly 80,000 qualified applications were not accepted by nursing schools in 2022. AACN reports that one of the “primary barriers to accepting all qualified students at nursing schools” is a shortage of nurse faculty with the advanced Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) training needed to fulfill the nurse educator role.
This shortage is also due, in part, to qualified applicants being turned away from master’s programs, resulting in a lack of qualified nurse educator program faculty. Online MSN in Nursing Education programs can play an important role in alleviating this cyclical shortage of nurses and nurse educators, improving access to the flexible education nurse faculty need.
Why the Need for Nurses and Nurse Educators Is so Great
Various factors are creating a greater need for nurses and nurse educators, such as the following:
- The national uninsured rate hit an all-time low in 2022, and a record-breaking number of people signed up for healthcare insurance under the Affordable Care Act (ACA) in the 2022-2023 open enrollment period. Resultingly, millions more Americans and legal residents have health insurance and will be seeking medical and preventive care.
- The U.S. population is aging rapidly with roughly 10,000 Americans turning 65 each day, likely doubling the population of older adults over the next few decades, according to AARP International. This is putting great demands on the healthcare system due to the complexity and increases in care needed by older adults.
- According to research from NCSBN, burnout and stress surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic drove roughly 100,000 nurses to leave the workforce, and an additional 800,000 plan to leave the profession by 2027 due to stress, burnout and retirement.
- AACN projects that a large portion of the current nurse educator workforce will reach retirement age by 2031, adding to nurse educator shortages across the country.
What Is a Nurse Educator?
ExploreHealthCareers.com describes nurse educators as “registered nurses with advanced education who also are teachers.” Most work as nurses before dedicating their careers (part-time or full-time) to educating future nurses. Nurse educators have extensive clinical experience, and many continue caring for patients after becoming educators. Even if they no longer practice, nurse educators must stay current with new nursing methods and technologies, which keep them on the leading edge of clinical practice.
Qualifications of a Nurse Educator
The qualifications of a nurse educator vary according to the nursing program in which the educator teaches. A master’s degree like Lamar University’s online MSN in Nursing Education is necessary for the nurse educator who instructs in associate or bachelor’s degree programs. Professors who teach in master’s degree programs require a master’s or doctoral degree.
Where Nurse Educators Work
Nurse educators often serve as faculty members in universities, community colleges and technical schools. With the growth of accredited online degree programs, some nurse educators conduct classes at a distance via the internet.
Other nurse educators work in healthcare organizations as staff development officers or clinical supervisors. With experience, nurse educators may advance to administrative roles.
What Nurse Educators Do
If working in an academic setting, a nurse educator develops lesson plans and curricula, teaches courses, evaluates educational programs, grades papers, oversees students’ clinical practice, attends faculty meetings, keeps current on clinical issues and serves as a role model to students.
The nurse educator who oversees students in clinical settings may divide their time between campus and a nearby hospital or other healthcare facility. Some faculty members participate in research that adds to the scientific base for nursing practice.
A nurse educator in an administrative role may manage nurse education programs, write or review textbooks and develop continuing education programs for working nurses.
Making a Timely Choice
Choosing to further your education to become a nurse educator can be a wise decision — good for you and good for the growing number of people who need healthcare. Online degree programs are an ideal way to earn a master’s degree for the nurse who works full- or part-time because online programs are convenient and allow for flexibility.